Apple Wood

I

No, I’m all right now. It was just my head, and it’s all right now. I guess it scared Mr. and Mrs. Clement. I felt so funny. I did n’t know what had happened to me, hardly. I never fainted before in my life, if you call that a faint. They tell you what I did?

Mr. Clement was reading the paper, and I was dryin’ the dishes and settin’ ’em up. The Grahams was here and we’d used the good dishes. I said to Mrs. Clement at supper it was a pity Teacher was invited out when we had such a good supper, but you had just as good or better where you was, I expect. It’s nice to get a change of cooking, anyway.

I was setting up the goblets, and I come in with two in each hand, and opened the cupboard latch with my thumb, to set them away, and Mr. Clement was reading the paper, and all at once I got this dizzy spell and my knees just would n’t bear me up. I turned half round, and down I went with my back against the cupboard. I suppose they told you how it was.

And when I was goin’ down I remember thinking, ‘My soul, Mrs. Clement’s goblets!’ and I rested them in my lap, and though I loosed my hold on them when I fainted away, they was safe in the slack of my apron, and I knew they was before I let go my mind. Five is all she’s got left of her wedding set, and I know she’d never a said a word, it happening the way it did, but I’d hate like everything to a broken one of them.

They lifted me up, and when I’d come to a little they helped me upstairs, one on one side and one on the other, and she took off my shoes and got me my gown, and Mr. Clement, he went down and brung up two fruit jars of hot water to put at my feet, and a bottle of cherry wine and poured me some. They was just as anxious and concerned. They’ve never made me feel anything but at home and one of the family. There’s never anyone sat down at their table they would n’t want me to set a plate for myself with. They’re good people.

It was the oddest thing to faint away like that. I felt so foolish before Mr. Clement when I come to. I was glad the Grahams had left, anyway. Mr. Clement was reading the paper and I was settin’ the goblets up, and I sunk down and I could n’t a lifted a hand or opened my eyes to save me.

They tell you what it was he was reading? Well, I’m glad they did n’t. It’s a relief to me. I guess they did n’t even notice, then, or think a thing. He was reading the Gaylord items. Ever drive over by Gaylord? It is n’t much of a place, but there’s some nice farms over beyond. I used to work over past there, and my folks, they lived in Gaylord. I guess there’s nobody ever thinks now I ever did work any place but here. And there’s some thinks I ’m related to Mrs. Clement’s folks. Of course the people in my own church know better. I’m no relation at all.

My folks lived in Gaylord, and I worked out with a family that lived over beyond. You may a heard of somebody goin’ over to Wingates’ for apples. They have the orchards. You never saw so much land in apple trees. I was there the year after the old part began to bear, and I helped set out some of the new part myself. I worked there.

And Mr. Clement did n’t mention to you what he was reading out to Mrs. Clement and me? What he’d just read out when I fainted away? I guess they did n’t notice. I guess there was nothing to call it to mind to them. They never knew anything about it, really, except for the baby’s burn, and everyone knew that. But no one blamed me, not even Mrs. Wingate, and the doctor kept pattin’ my shoulder and said, ‘It’s no fault of yours, Minnie.’

Oh, you never know! You think a thing is over and done with and buried deep, and then you hear an item read out like that from the weekly, ‘They are cutting down the old part of the Wingate orchard,’ and faint dead away.

II

Ah, it was a nice place! But work, though — plenty of work. But I was strong as two girls then, and I never cared. Mrs. Wingate was poorly. She suffered from sick-headache spells, suffered with ’em so! They always kept a girl. First, when I first came, she’d get up and come out in the kitchen and walk around with her hand on her head, and the other out in front of her to catch herself if she got dizzy on her feet, and tell me what to do. It was n’t only her head, but her back, too. All she wanted was to lie down with the blinds drawn. After I’d been there three or four days, and she seen I could do all right, she left me plan, and cook, and wash, and everything. She said she’d never seen the like in a girl, and she was so glad she just cried. Seems she had n’t had good luck with girls. Land, I did n’t know anything different! To home there was nine of us, and five girls, and we could all cook and sew. I can’t remember when I could n’t, hardly, and if we’d a shirked we’d a caught it. Anyway, I liked to cook and have things nice.

And their baby! She could n’t say a word when I come, and I taught her to talk and to say her prayers, and one for the table. She was the prettiest child, and good. I sewed for her, too. Mrs. Wingate would say, ‘Minnie, are n’t you tired? Come on in here and sit down where it’s cool awhile. She’s got plenty. You don’t need to sew for her.’ But you know, I ’d rather. Pink or blue, she wore one as good as the other, and I’d make her little dresses and skirts and panties, smock ’em and cross-stitch ’em, and make tatting edging. And when I’d get her in a new dress and set her up in her high chair and curl her hair round my finger, she was just a picture, just a flower. And I never spoiled her, either. I was firm with her if she got into things. Just one good spat and she’d remember. Oh, she was sweet, and her eyes were blue. Mrs. Wingate’s eyes were brown. It was his was the blue.

But I ought n’t to tell you all this. I ought n’t to burden you with it. This has kinda shaken me, I guess. Mr. Wingate! You don’t see any men like that now. There ain’t any, I guess. Men used to be bigger and a lot finerlookin’, it seems to me. I helped outside and in. He’d whistle for me, and I’d see the baby was strapped safe in her chair, and Mrs. Wingate was all right, and out I’d run and help him lift a rack on a wagon, or get a sow back in, or whatever he needed. And always, ‘Thank you, Minnie.’ Just that.

It was summer when I came, and I was seventeen and had n’t ever worked out before, or been away from home, even. First night I cried and cried. It was so queer and lonesome to be in a bed by myself. I got up and lit the lamp again and read my Bible. And in the morning I asked could I have the baby in with me, and Mrs. Wingate said, ‘Of course,’ and was glad of it. So then she slept with me.

I was so strong then. I could wash and iron the same day, and if I was a little tired I’d go to bed right after I got the supper dishes done and get up at five, and never feel it. Mrs. Wingate did n’t get up for breakfast, hardly ever. She liked her tea and I’d bring it to her in bed, and she’d drink it without cream or sugar and go back to sleep if her head would let her. Poor thing! She was wretched.

I kept everything up nice. I’d sew and I’d mend, and can and put up, and look after the chickens, and the little garden up by the house. And I liked it. Sometimes I’d be moppin’ up in the morning, maybe, or sprinklin’ down the clothes, and the smell of the clean things, and the birds in the apple trees, and the hens singin’ — oh, my heart would swell, and I’d feel like it was all mine, and no harm or wrong in it, either. I was so young and so green! Why, if anybody’d said to me a man could care about a girl besides his wife, — a married man like that, and a good man, — I’d a laughed. We did n’t take a paper to home, and I did n’t even know there was such things as that happen. When I ’d play it was mine, the baby and all, it was like a little girl would. He was Mr. Wingate, and she was Mrs. Wingate, and I worked there and got my two dollars a week.

I don’t know as it is a thing to tell, or that I ought to, or got a right. We’d eat breakfast, Mr. Wingate and me, and I’d wrap the baby up in a blanket and bring her out in the kitchen. My room was off the kitchen and theirs was in the other part of the house. And the baby’d wake up most of the time as soon as I did, and I’d bring her out and set her in her high chair while I got the breakfast. He always built the fire. And when I’d brought Mrs. Wingate her tea in bed I’d set the table. He’d come in with the milk, and while I took up the breakfast he’d dress the baby — stand her up in her high chair, and pull her gown off over her head, and hold her little undergarments for her, and get her into them. And she’d plague him, little as she was, and put her foot in the wrong leg hole, or when he was puttin’ on her shoes and stockings she’d go limp and throw her head back and laugh and laugh, and he could n’t do a thing with her. She’d just make a monkey of him, and I ’d have to come straighten her out. He was in the house for meals — Mrs. Wingate got up to eat or not, just as she felt like — and I was running out to help him whenever he whistled for me. And I never thought a thing then, and neither did he, so far as I know.

My folks was stern and I was brought up right — to work, and mind, and to read my Bible every night, and I did. I’d sit with something round me and read five or six chapters sometimes, after I was in bed, and learn a Psalm or some verses by heart. And I prayed for the Wingates the same as for my folks, and give thanks I had such a good place.

Winters there was n’t so much to do, and I knit. I knit a big shawl, navy blue, for Mrs. Wingate, and a little pink sweater, and cap and mittens to match, for the baby, and she was so proud of those little mittens she wore one round so much I had to wash it before the other one was done. I made a pair for Mr. Wingate, too, black with red in the ribbing.

Everything was all right, and if it had n’t been for the blizzard maybe nothing would ever have been different, and maybe it would have come up anyway, sooner or later. I don’t know. Here I am telling you this, Teacher, and no other soul knows it.

III

There was this big snow, a blizzard. It come up all at once. Mr. Wingate went out for the cows, and there was a heifer he could n’t find, and he come in to get the wood for me and then went out again to look for her — would n’t set down to his supper. Mrs. Wingate ate and was n’t worried. But I worried. I could n’t help it. I put the baby to bed, and then I just walked up and down. I could n’t knit or anything. And Mrs. Wingate said, ‘Why don’t you go to bed, Minnie?’

She just did n’t realize. So sick, and always indoors like she was. She was like a baby. I opened the door and let the snow drive in, once, just to show her, but she did n’t have the life to scare. She says, ‘He’ll be all right,’ and went to bed. And I waited up. By and by I put on my overshoes and my wraps. I was goin’ out to look for him.

Mrs. Wingate heard me, and called to me to come in and get down another comfort and spread it over her. She seen I was wrapped up, and she says, ‘Don’t go out, Minnie. I don’t want you to go out and leave the baby.’ She was scared for the baby, but she was n’t scared for him. Maybe you don’t think a woman would be so sick she would n’t be scared for her husband? Well, they do get that sick. A body can be so sick they don’t care if they live or die, but they got to be pretty sick not to think of their children. She thought he could stand anything. And he did come in at last. When I heard him at the door —oh, if you don’t know, you just don’t know, that’s all! My heart! I could a sung.

She called and says, ‘Is that you, Mr. Wingate?’ He was so beat he could n’t even answer her. He just dropped in a chair by the stove. I called that it was him. And I took off his mittens and his cap and his shoes and socks. He thought his feet was froze and I thought they was too. I brung in snow and rubbed and rubbed ’em, and then I poured cold water in the pan and rubbed ’em more, and by and by he says, ‘They’re all right, Minnie.’ And then I did a thing — I don’t know what you’ll think — I laid my head against his leg and cried and cried.

And he put his hands on my head and started to say something to me, and we could n’t talk, not him nor me, and he lifted me up and hugged me so, and put back my hair from my face. He did say something and then he kissed me. And what he said I can’t remember. Mrs. Wingate called to him pretty soon to come to bed, and he let me go, and I took up my lamp — it was the kitchen lamp I used — and went in my room.

I prayed, but I did n’t read my Bible. I felt I was n’t to touch it. The thing I’d done! I thought I would n’t close my eyes, but I did. When morning came it was still bad and the wind howling. I heard him come out to the kitchen and fix the fire. When he’d gone to do the chores, I went out in the kitchen to dress, and then I started breakfast. I was in the pantry when he come in with the milk, and he came in where I was and I whirled round, and he says, ‘Don’t be afraid of me, Minnie. I can’t have you afraid of me!’ And I says, ‘I ain’t afraid, Mr. Wingate. It was me, too. I just don’t want to go away and leave the baby.’ That was what come into my mind to say. And he said I was n’t to go, ever, and if he ever did the like of that again I was to pick up a stick of cordwood and hit him over the head with it, and that I was a good girl. ‘You’re good yourself,’ I said.

The baby woke and cried then, and I went and got her and he dressed her. He meant that, what he said, too, and he give me no cause to go. He would n’t hardly talk to me after that, lest Mrs. Wingate was up and around. And when he’d call me out to help him he’d be so short with me. I did n’t care, though, not so long as he’d leave it so I would n’t have to go away. I was n’t going to have a married man kissing me — not one I worked for, most of all. I knew what was right.

Mrs. Wingate got to feeling better there for a while and was up and around, but she overdid and got the grippe and we moved a cot out in the kitchen for her and set it along between the windows, and had the doctor out for her. And she’d watch me while I worked and said it was just a pleasure to see someone swing a bucket of water up on a table like that and it not hurt her back. One day I was working bread and she said to me, ‘Minnie, if ever anything happens to me, I want you to have the baby. I’d rather you than anybody in the world.’ Oh, that made me feel terrible. I come within one of breaking down and telling her about that night of the blizzard and us kissing, but I thought better of it. It was him too, and if he wanted her to know it he was the one to tell her. I was workin’ the bread, and I stood there bitin’ my lip and the tears running and my hands in the dough, and she called me over to her where she was on the cot bed, and took the corner of my apron and wiped my face. And she never thought a thing — never.

She was n’t nervous in the way most women are, that sick. She was n’t jumpy. She was just limp and quiet, and all she wanted was to lie still and not have the sun in her face. Her sleepin’ there in the kitchen, we’d never talk over a whisper while we was havin’ breakfast. And I was glad to have her there. It was easier, and that’s a fact.

IV

April, I cleaned house, and she said she was better and wanted back to her own bed; and after that, eatin’ with him alone again — oh, I did n’t know how it was goin’ to be — day in and day out. One morning I said I was homesick and I wanted to go home to see my little sister confirmed, and he said it was all right for me to go. He drove over and got a neighbor woman to stay a few days, and I went home to Gaylord with the mailman, and helped finish up my little sister’s dress and went to church, and all. But I was restless and could n’t sit still to visit. All I wanted was to go back to Wingates’. And I went with the mailman before they expected me, and the baby come running out to meet me and her arms held out, and Mrs. Wingate was worse. The woman could n’t get on with the baby, had her crying and was tattlin’ on her to Mrs. Wingate half the time. And when he come in at noon, to see his face — he was so glad I’d come — and everything was all right, and I made a coffee cake for supper.

Then the trees budded out and it was lovely. You’d be washing dishes and the smell of the trees would come in at the window and at the door, like a wave of the sea. And so pretty every time you looked out. I took the baby out in the orchard in the afternoon and made her a crown of just blossoms and grass, and Mr. Wingate, he come out where we was, in the orchard, and come right up and dropped down beside us where we was, and I thought, ‘This is nothing — this is nothing to run away about. He’ll do all right; he means just as well as I do,’and he kissed the baby and she took the crown off her head and set it on mine, and he kissed me. When he started to kiss me she was clapping her hands, and when he kissed me and did n’t let me go she just stood there, her hands apart and her eyes wide, and he seen and I seen that that little baby knew it was wrong. Yes, she did, a little baby like that that could hardly talk yet.

He let me go and I run on into the house. Mrs. Wingate’s room was on the other side, and when I went in she was asleep, and a wet cloth over her face. I was goin’ to tell him I had to go now, but I seen — why, he could n’t eat his supper. He was as sorry as I was, and I thought if I went away, what would I do? To give up a good place like that and Mrs. Wingate so nice to me and everything, and what could I tell my folks? They did n’t need me at home and was glad I had such a good place. And if I told them they’d think wrong of Mr. Wingate, and me too, and what I told you was all there was to tell.

That night it turned cold again and he went out and built fires in the orchard, — not too big ones, but small, to keep the blossoms from frosting, — and I had to go out and help him, and all night we was out there going from fire to fire along between the rows, puttin’ on a little wood where it was needed, and the sky was so clear and starry, and the firelight come up pink on the apple tree blossoms, so pink you’d think they was peach instead of apple. And all the flickerin’ and dancing, the light on the branches and the fires, and us passin’ each other again and again and again, and our arms full of wood, and neither of us speakin’, except about the fires. Then it begun to get light, the birds to call, a few, and he come and says, ‘Go on in and go to bed, Minnie,’ and 1 went. I laid down in my clothes, I was so tired, and in the morning, early, Mrs. Wingate got up and come in and took off my shoes, and I never knew and did n’t wake till almost dinner time.

V

And in June they had some money left them, left to Mr. Wingate, and he had to go away to see about it and was gone a week. They had one of those German boys over to do the chores and what work he’d laid out to be done, and I went out and helped him and it was so nice to be out and around. So long there I did n’t go out at all, unless he’d whistle, and he hardly did any more. Only for the eggs and the chickens and to work in the little garden up by the house, that was all I’d be out for, and then while the boy was there I went out and helped milk, and feed the calves, and everything. I liked it.

And Mr. Wingate come home and brought a new suitcase besides the one he took away with him. There was a lot of toys for the baby, a doll that walked, and a plainer one for every day, and rhinestone side combs and goods for two good dresses for Mrs. Wingate. He opened up t he things and gave them to them, and Mrs. Wingate called him over and said something to him, and I knew she was askin’ had he forgot to get anything for me, and I was so vexed and ashamed, and I went out to the cave, to put the butter and the cream away, and when I came in he’d gone out and she said site wanted me to have one of the dresses. Said that she never went out at all, and had n’t any need for it, and that I was to take my pick, and I held out I did n’t need it, and was n’t going to take it when it was her present, and she just insisted, and said she wanted me to have it. I chose the blue.

And I was hurt with him, and pretty mad. And when round supper I went out to get some water, he was there by the well and drew the bucket up for me and set it on the curb, and then he said, ‘Did you think I would forget you, Minnie? Did you?’ And he took a red box out of his pocket and opened up the lid and took out a bracelet, solid gold, and put it on my wrist. It was a heavy bracelet, wide, and rounded out, and carved on the outside was flowers — blossoms, or maybe a wild rose — and inside was my name, in fancy writing — Minnie. I did n’t know what to do and he thought I was n’t going to take it, and he begun to beg me, and he said if he was n’t goin’ to be good to me would n’t I a known the night we kept the fires? And this bracelet, this was to remind me that what he said that day in the pantry was a promise, and he’d never make me sorry if I’d keep the bracelet and stay on. And I said I’d stay, but that I would n’t wear it, at least not daytimes, and he said, ‘Would you wear it when you sleep, Minnie?’ And I said sometimes I would.

I cut out and made Mrs. Wingate her dress, but the blue one I had her put away, and she says, ‘All right, Minnie. It’s so nice, you save it and maybe it will be your wedding dress.’

One day I lied to her. I wore the bracelet at night. One morning early the baby woke up and would n’t get back to sleep, and she found the bracelet on my arm and wanted it. It was barely getting light, and I took it off and let her play with it, and she played a long time and I went back to sleep. And when I woke up again she was asleep and it in her hands, and I loosed her fingers from it and took and put it in my handkerchief box where I kept it under my Sunday handkerchief. And that afternoon I was sewing and it was time for Baby’s nap and her mother was trying to put her to sleep, and she kept askin’ and beggin’ for something, and kept saying, ‘Ring, ring.’ And her mother took off her wedding ring and give it to her to hold a little and she threw it on the floor and says, ‘Big ring.’ Mrs. Wingate says to me, ‘What on earth does she want, Minnie?’ The baby got down off the bed where she was, in my room, and run to me, and felt of my wrist and cried, and I said to Mrs. Wingate, ‘I don’t know. I have n’t any idea.’

I had n’t been reading my Bible then, not since the day he kissed me in the orchard, and that night I made up my mind I’d read and I’d pray too, and I did, but I could n’t tell her that I lied because there was him, and what would she think? I thought I ’d say some morning, ‘This is what she wanted.’ Bring it out to her and show her and say he give it to me for my present for helping save the fruit — and I could n’t.

Then one day a thunderstorm come up and he come in and said I’d better get my little chicks in, and I run and got them covered, and when I got in it was just dark blue outdoors and the sickest light over everything. And he called me to the kitchen door to hear the rain on the corn, hear it before there was so much as a drop on the cottonwood fluff there in the yard. Then the rain come — come just like a wall. And there was such a clap of thunder — not like in the sky but in the earth, it was so bad. Such a flash, and the thunder right on it! And I yelled, and put my head against him and he put his arm around me, and then he let me go, and Mrs. Wingate was callin’ me to come and shut down the windows. I done that when it thundered — I put my head against him. And in her room I looked in the dresser mirror and there was the print in my forehead of the overall suspender buckle, and he had n’t done a thing but put his arm around me. Did n’t kiss me — only put his arm around me.

That was in July, and there was all that hot long summer, and we never done a thing to plague each other, but I said to myself I was sure now that it was all right for me to stay. And he was proud to see how sure I was. They were n’t church people, though I guess they used to be when she was well, but they knew what was right, and he was a good man.

VI

Come time to pick the apples, and he got the German boys in again, and I went out and helped ’em, and I was n’t scared of them — I don’t know why. We started singing, and we sung and sung, pickin’ up the apples and loadin’ ’em, and me and the boys played catch with ’em, and laughed and fooled around, and Air. Wingate he just stood there with his hands hangin’ and so surprised, like I was a different person, and half mad and half likin’ it. Next morning when we was alone and having breakfast he says that maybe he was wrong, and he was a pig to keep me on there, and maybe I’d better go to town and tell my folks it was too lonesome out at Wingates’, and get me another place so I could go more and be with young folks more. He said he’d be glad to say a good word for me and so would Mrs. Wingate, he knew, and I’d be sure to get a good place. And I asked him was that what he really wanted me to do, and he says, ‘You know, Minnie, what I want is to have you here all the time.’ And I said, ‘Then I’ll stay. I’ll stay so long as things are the way they have been all along.’ And he pushed back his plate and reached across the table and took hold of my hand, and says, ‘So help me God, Minnie!’

Then the German boys drove in the yard and he went out to tell them where to pick.

That afternoon he sent the boys to town with a load, sent the two of them because the team was fractious. I was makin’ apple butter out of apples that was n’t good to sell, and had it in the big iron kettle on the stove. And I seen the boys drive out of the yard with the wagon, and both of them waved to me. Mrs. Wingate was lyin’ down, and the baby was there in the kitchen, runnin’ around and askin’ me somethin’ over and over, or just sayin’, ‘Minnie! Minnie! Minnie!’ for fun. It was such a day! Still and warm, but not really hot, with the smell of apples out of doors and in, and the air just humming.

He was out in the orchard. I was stirring the apple butter and minding it so it would n’t burn, and the baby was talking and talking away. And all at once I heard him whistle for me. I don’t know. I was used to him whistlin’ for me when he wanted me to come out and help him. I don’t know what it was, but something spoke to me and said, ‘You stay in, Minnie.’ The baby put her head on one side and listened and said, ‘That’s Daddy. That’s Daddy whistlin’, Minnie.’

It was hot in there, over the stove. I could hardly get my breath. And he was whistlin’ for me, and I thought, ‘I ’ll run out a minute. He needs me for somethin’. I’ll run out and tell him what I been thin kin’ — that maybe it would be better if he had a boy to help. If we had him always at the table, and to help outside, it would be easier, and nicer, too.’ He’d had that money left him, and he could easy keep a hand. I said that to myself, but all the time I knew it was different, and that he did n’t really need me. He just wanted me to come. And I wanted to. I took up the spoon, — it was a big wooden spoon, — and cracked the butter off it on the edge of the kettle, and laid it up on the warming oven and slid the kettle to the back of the stove. I untied and took off my apron, and hung it on a chair. The baby reached up for her little sunbonnet, and said, ‘Go too.’

And I said, ‘No,’ and took a yellow comb down that he’d brought home from town when he took the apples in the day before, and she’d cried for it, and I give it to her to play with and told her to stay in.

He whistled again, and something said, just the same, and plain, ‘Don’t go, Minnie.’ And I went out on the step and shut the screen door behind me, so it did n’t slam, and then I ran. He was there under the big tree where he kissed me that other time when the baby was with us. And when I was almost there I tripped, tripped on a root and fell, fell on my hands, and he run and helped me up and stood holding me, his face lifted up and his eyes shut. And I was there under the tree and him holdin’ me, and I knew what a sin it was, and I did n’t care. I would n’t a gone back — no, not to save my soul.

And then she screamed, the baby, and come runnin’ out between the apple trees, screaming and callin’, ‘Minnie!’ And her little hand raised up over her head, and round her wrist was a ring of fire. I got to her first and smothered the fire out with my dress. It was burned deep in her little flesh and clear round her wrist. She’d stuck the comb in the stove grate, and it had caught fire and blazed up and had curved right around her little wrist. I carried her in. She was cryin’ so, and I was holding her and dippin’ cold sweet cream on the burn. Mrs. Wingate got up and was there by then. And Mr. Wingate looked at me and I looked at him, and he saw what I saw, that it was around her wrist like a bracelet. He run out to the pasture and caught up a horse and did n’t bother with anything but the bridle and rode to town to get the doctor.

I set there on the kitchen floor and held her in my lap and was bathin’ her wrist in sweet cream, and Mrs. Wingate kept saying, ‘Don’t cry so, Minnie. It’s not your fault,’ and when the doctor come he said the same. And Mr. Wingate, he stood there, and I could n’t look up at him.

The doctor said she would n’t lose her hand, not even though it was burned deep like that and clear around. I’d been so afraid she would.

I waited till it was late night and then I got up and went out in my gown, and took a ladder, and clumb up to the fork of that apple tree he was by when I run out to him, and I took the bracelet and pressed it down deep in the fork of the tree, till it was fast there.

In the morning I mopped and baked and had everything right, and I got a good dinner, and after he’d gone back out to work I told Mrs. Wingate I was leaving and going home to my folks. She said she wished I would n’t take it like that and said again I was n’t to blame in any way, and neither of them would ever think so, and when she saw I was bound to go she went in her room and came out with the blue dress goods and said I was to take it, and I told her to keep it and make it up for the little girl when she was bigger.

I undressed the baby and put her to sleep on my bed. She laid on her back and her head to one side and her curls wet on her forehead. Her hands were up above her head and the bandage on her wrist. And then I packed my things and went out to the road to wait for the mailman to come back that way. And Mrs. Wingate walked out with me, and kissed me good-bye.

It was n’t bad to home. They’d heard about the burn, and thought I took it too hard, but they said it was just as well. Clements had come wantin’ a girl to help, and I went over next morning, and here I’ve been. That was before their second girl was born. I been here all these years and seen the Clements’ children grown and married.

VII

I come pretty near getting married once. I was goin’ to be. He went to our church, and my folks liked him and the Clements liked him and I thought I wanted him, myself. And one night I told him how I did that time — run out there to Mr. Wingate in the orchard and about the baby’s burn. And when I told him he laughed and said he did n’t care; if that was all there was to it, that was nothing. And after that I could n’t stand him, and things I used to think I’d get used to about him, and we did n’t get on and I let him go.

There’s things I read in the Bible and knew by heart should have held me, if I’d hearkened to ’em, should have made me go away, back there at the first. ‘Remove thy foot from evil,’ and ’As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ And even that last day I heard as plain as could be, ‘Stay in, Minnie,’ and yet I went. And the baby got the bracelet burned around her wrist.

There ’s not a night I have n’t prayed that it would all be forgiven us. And I think that I’ve been heard, too. He’s been blessed. Mrs. Wingate, they got a new doctor for her, and he helped her so much, and she got lots better and had three boys, all strong and well. And the orchard done well and the rest of the place, too. Before their girl got married, they built a new house — a big one with a fireplace that’d take a four-foot log. I’ve never seen it — never been back there or seen a one of them.

They asked me to the wedding when their girl got married, and I thought I’d go, but I did n’t. I sent a present, though, and the girl wrote me a little letter, and I’ve got it yet. Said she remembered me a little. They been blessed.

To-night Mr. Clement was reading the paper, and he read the Gaylord item out, and the room went round and my knees give way and let me down. I fainted.

They’ll be cutting the big tree, too, and hauling it up to where they saw and chop. One of the boys will be splitting chunks up for the kitchen, and he ’ll cut into the bracelet. It’s solid gold and soft, and he’ll cut right through it, and he’ll call and say, ‘Look at this, Dad.’ And Mr. Wingate will come and take the pieces in his hand and rub them on his sleeve and see the ‘ Minnie ’ graved inside, and think back. Or maybe they won’t split that chunk. Maybe they’ll leave it a log, cut for the fireplace, and carry it in some night when their girl and her children are over there for supper. And he’ll sit there and watch, and smell the apple wood burning. It’s the sweetest-smelling wood to burn there is. And the gold will melt, and run — drop, drop — into the fire. Like as not he’ll see it, and like as not he won’t. For the kitchen, or for the fireplace — what do you think?